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In a recent discussion on how diversity can impact the bottom line, I heard about Maggie Anderson’s Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy. It was recommended for a view of how one African American couple decided to experience what it would be like to buy only from Black-owned businesses for one year. Maggie and John Anderson documented their Empowerment Experiment and brought the economics of current black-owned businesses into view through traditional and social media.

They were a professional couple with two very young daughters living in Oak Park, a comfortable, urban, racially diverse neighborhood on the west side of Chicago. What they found as they began their year was that there were almost no Black-owned businesses in Chicago.

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Over the year of the experiment they found it very difficult to find groceries, clothes, diapers, toys, cleaning supplies. Maggie was in charge of day-to-day operations and did the searching, often driving into and through low-income, primarily African American sections of Chicago, and finding very little to choose from. Farmer’s markets were one of the few places Maggie and those living nearby found fresh fruits and vegetables

The book is filled with history and financial facts such as African American buying power being estimated at $1.2 trillion dollars in 2013, about the same as Canada, by a Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management study which suggests they spend 2% at Black-owned businesses. By increasing that to 10% ($1 out of every $10) they could generate $14 billion in revenue.

Starting on a small scale, I am going to experiment with Buying Black – I will make online purchases until I find some local Black-owned businesses. Here is a list from the Empowerment Experiment website to check. I will order a pound of  Stivers Coffee next week . . .

Would you be willing to find one product to buy from a Black-owned business on the ground or online in the next month? Where would you go? What would you choose?

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